Posts Tagged ‘Boston’

Southie Left Legger.


I am fourteen years old and my life is about to be ended by the color orange.

It’s just now dark outside. Mother is finishing the dishes in the other room. Da drops into his easy chair to watch television and pick plaster from his fingernails. Moira and I sprawl on the floor and stare at the black and white flickering of Gun Smoke.

Over the fuzz and percussion of the television I hear the wash machine start up. My anxiety peaks.

I wore the stupid thing Saturday. I had taken care to get it extra dirty in preparation for tomorrow, even crawling under the board fence at the vacant lot on Boylston to reclaim a stray baseball. When I got home I buried it in the bottom of the hamper. Maybe she wouldn’t find it.

If she did, my life would end before first period. No one west of Amory wears orange on St. Patrick’s Day in Boston.

A half an hour later Mother orders us to bed.

Tuesday morning found it at the foot of my bed. It lay arrogantly on top of my newest pair of jeans. My orange polo shirt. The alligator on the breast grins up at me. I dressed quickly and run through the hall to the kitchen, but Da had already left for work. My last hope vanishes. Mother turns from the stove and smiles.

Moira is already in her chair at the table; oblivious to the bulls-eye her orange and white striped dress has hung around her shoulders.

“Good morning Neil.” Mother says.

“Good morning Neil.” Moira mimics.

I sit down without a word. Mother brings breakfast. I have no appetite.

“Your shirt looks good.” She sooths.

“Do I have to wear it?” I whine in protest. “The kids at school will-“

“Yes. We go through it every year. You aren’t wearing it for the kids at school.”

“But I-“ She frowns. I’ve lost.

“Neil. You’re going to wear it. This is a good Protestant family and it’s our tradition.” Her sternness gives way to a patronizing laugh. “Unless you’d rather convert.”

“It’d keep me alive.” I mutter to my eggs.

I grab my biggest jacket and run to meet the bus before Mother can tell me to put it back. I throw it on and zip it before I climb on and take a seat. The driver stares critically in his mirror at Moira as she bounces toward her friends at the back of the bus. I pull my hood up over the orange triangles of my collar and hide in it for the ride through Jamaica Plains.

I get off at English High School, ignoring guilt at leaving Moira to fend for herself. Surely no one would beat up a girl. The halls feel close. I’m sweating long before I reach room 112.

I stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and then duck into my seat, knowing everyone is looking at me. Miss Shay looks up from her desk. My breath catches in my throat.

“Neil Collins, take your coat off. You’re indoors.” She dooms me with a smile.

“Ma’am, I…” I start to object, but can’t think of a defense. The whole class is looking at me now.

I stand and close my eyes. Helpless, I shirk the jacket off my shoulders. It binds at my wrists and I struggle. My hands behind my back, the executioners around me fire their laughter.

This was a writing prompt.

Back in college I was given the assignment to write a story involving age and color. In the spirit of academia, the TA told us we had to tell both the age and the color in the first sentence, thereby limiting our creativity and spoiling any surprises we may have cooked up. In case I didn’t pull it out enough in the writing (which I don’t think I did), the boy in this story is worried over nothing. He’s experiencing what psychologists call imaginary audience. The kids are laughing at him at the end because he is the focus of the teacher’s instruction. No one cares about his shirt.

So there you have it. Feedback is always welcome.